Kyaiktiyo Pagoda aka the Golden Rock is one of those places which is always over your expectations. It definitely has some magic on it. Its cultural factor and spirituality are very strong. You go there thinking about it is just a golden rock but then you realize that is way more than this.
Throughout my trip, I felt a total lack of interest among travelers. In several occasions I heard comments like: ‘’It is too far away for just seeing a simple rock’’, or ‘’It is not worth it. You just arrive, take a picture and you leave’’
Well my dear friends. I think that these comments are extremely wrong, as the rock is only one of the multiple attractions that this place can potentially offer. I am aiming to change the perception of future visitors and that is why I am going to list the reasons why you must visit the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, the Myanmar Golden Rock.
But first of all, what is the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda history?
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is a popular pilgrim site among Buddhists. It is the second most important pilgrim site of all Myanmar and its importance is even recognized internationally. It is located at the summit of Mount Kyaiktiyo, 1,100 meters above sea level.
At the top, you will not only find the Golden Rock Pagoda but also a huge complex made-up of several temples, restaurants, guesthouses and other institutions. Yet, the Golden Rock is the holiest point of interest.
Placed on the very edge of a hill as if it was defying gravity, the legends say the rock is actually supported by a hair from Buddha and that is the reason why hundreds of thousands of Burmese come every year to venerate it.
Having said that, why any traveler coming to Myanmar can’t miss to visit it?
1- Its strong symbolism is bigger than its size and golden color
The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is a giant golden rock which is defying gravity thanks to a Buddha’s hair. No matter if you are Christian, Muslim, atheist or agnostic.
Whether you are a believer, superstitious or you believe or not in myths, the point is that this is a holy place for Buddhists and people in Myanmar fully believe in this legend.
The rest does not matter. You do not need to believe in it. So strong is the symbolism that hundreds of thousands of Burmese come every year to be able to feel closer to Buddha by just touching it with their hand. When you are there, you can feel this symbolism through their excited faces, happiness and their high devotion.
2- Mount Kyaiktiyo still belongs to Myanmar off the beaten track
Even though the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is explained in detail in all travel guides, only a few bunch of people come to visit this treasure. On the contrary, you will be meeting dozens of thousands of Burmese tourists who come from all over the country to offer their prayers and offerings to Buddha.
People from all social levels and ethnicity, although most of them are obviously from a very low class. They travel for hundreds of kilometers at the back of very small vans. They get there with all their luggage, full of clothes and food as they are planning to stay for many days. There are camping areas all over the place.
Read next: How to enjoy Myanmar off the beaten track
3- Beautiful hikes
From the village located at the bottom of Mount Kyaiktiyo (Kinpun), everyone goes to the top by bus, especially tourists. But there is also the off the beaten path alternative of going by foot. It is a 16km hike all the way up to the top. At a normal pace and with generous stops, it should not take you more than 4h.
Yes, the trip can be exhausting but along the way, you are going to meet up with so many pilgrims who are hiking on barefoot and are a photographic festival. It was here where I probably took the best picture of all my trip.
You will pass by small villages whose inhabitants live from offering water, food, and souvenirs to the pilgrims. All Burmese people will wave at you. They will smile at you and they will be glad to see a Western dude walking happily among them.
4- And yes, it is only a golden stone but an impressive one at that
Its size and the way it is defying gravity is shocking to see. During sunset, the rock shines in all its glamour. You can just spend hours sitting there admiring it and looking at how all people are venerating it.
Practical information for visiting thr Golden Rock
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is located at the summit of Mount Kyayktiyo, 15 km from Kinpun and around 200km from Yangon, in Mon State
How to get in
Me personally I came from Bago, which is half way from Yangon and only 2h hours by bus. Buses from Bago cost 5$ approximately. From Yangon it takes 4h and costs 7-8$. There are buses running every day.
The bus will drop you in Kinpun, which is the village located at the bottom of the mountain and the base to the Golden Rock Pagoda. Most of the people go up to the Golden Rock Pagoda by local trucks. They cost 1$, they are running throughout the day and take only 30 minutes. If you want to do it more authentic there is the option of going by foot (16km).
Where to stay
You can do it as a day trip or you can sleep there. I think that if you really want to feel the magic of the place you should stay there for one night. In Kinpun, there are plenty of guesthouses where you can stay. The budget ones cost 10$ for a single room
Entrance fee: $5
Read next: Exploring Myanmar (Burma)